UCSB Surfers Catch Waves During the Full Moon

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Stephani Anderson

The night of the full moon has a mysterious aura. Some superstitions say that a full moon will make you go into labor early or turn you into a werewolf. Whether you believe these things or not, this astrological event creates the ideal opportunity for surfers to ride some waves at night.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it, there was a full moon on Apr. 11. In fact, several UCSB students seized the chance to do some night surfing because of the waves and light provided by the moon.

“I like surfing during the full moon because it’s a great way to connect with the ocean,” said Jake Whisenant, a third year environmental science major. “You have to have full trust in what’s going on below and around you. And obviously, it’s a great way to score great waves with just you and your friends.”

Whisenant and some of his friends enjoyed the surfing conditions at Devereux Point during the full moon that night.

On Apr. 11, the moon was especially unique. It was the first full moon of northern hemisphere spring following the March equinox, and it sets the date for Easter Sunday. It is also the time of year when it is closest to Jupiter, according to Debora Byrd, a science communicator and educator. For all of 2017, Jupiter was closest to Earth three days before the full moon, meaning Jupiter is at its brightest and very close to the moon at this time.  

What exactly happens during a full moon? During this phase, the moon and sun are in a line and Earth is in the middle. The moon looks full because the entirety of its day side is visible. “In many ways, a full moon is the opposite of a new moon,” wrote Byrd. “At both the new and full phases, the moon is on a line with the Earth and sun. At new moon, the moon is in the middle position along the line. At full moon, Earth is in the middle.”

That’s why a full moon is the perfect time for surfers to catch some waves. The day’s sunlight reflects off the moon to create a spotlight in the night sky.There is enough light to see when there may not be on any regular night.

Another reason full moon surfing is unusual is the amplification of the tidal swings. Although both the moon and the sun affect the tides because of gravitational attraction, Surfer Today reports that the moon’s force is dominant because the sun is 390 times farther from Earth than the moon.  

“One time my friend […] and I night surfed 10 foot waves in Malibu during the full moon and paddled out to greet about 50 other surfers in the water, some wearing glowsticks and white t-shirts,” said Whisenant. “A lot of people don’t realize, but there’s a big night surfing culture in California, especially at the popular spots.”

Every 29.5 days, the moon completes its cycle and returns to the full phase. Even if you don’t surf, you can still enjoy seeing the moon in this phase with its clear visibility and close distance to Earth.